You wouldn’t think that Soilwork could add much to their twenty year portfolio. The sound, aggression and melodic level have transformed subtly over the years but I think most people who know Soilwork have a certain expectation.

Well let me say that all that you might expect is here – the melodic, groove-laden songs, the pungent backdrop, the combination of aggressive vocals, big sounds, cleaner choruses, all round catchiness and guitar solos. Soilwork has a new drummer in Bartian Thusgaard, whose style brings a new edge. But ultimately it’s the songs. I’d say there is a new and refined level of complexity here. The keyboard screams out and the drumming is noticeably high in tempo on “Arrival”, but the standard fiery ingredients are there too. With extra layer, it’s possibly too much for a four minute track, especially one which fits in a quick solo into the mix too. A deeper and welcome energy runs though “Bleeder Despoiler”, a cool and heavy song straight from groovesville. Its structure is more solid and hooky than the more raw “Arrival”. This time the guitar solo takes us to heavily melodic dreamland – superb. This could have gone on delighting me for longer. “Full Moon Shoals” takes us back to the slower end. The controlled chorus has arguably an anthemic feel. There’s a clear departure here in the style of track, and the metallic explosion, which occurs mid way through. With harmonies at the end, this track had too many diverse strands. I much preferred the more direct assault of “Bleeder Despoiler”. “The Nurturing Glance” recalls a classic American rhythmic style as interpreted by Soilwork. It’s clear that they’re mixing the styles and trying to do something interesting. From a listening point of view, The Nurturing Glance is rampant, catchy and energetic. Adrenaline flows. You simply can’t beat it.

The moment I realised I was going to love this album as I love most of what the Swedish groove meisters have done was somewhere between “The Nurturing Glance” and “When the Universe Spoke”. “When the Universe Spoke” grips you by its initial epic build up, never departing from its hair-raising level of intensity. The chorus reaches to the skies. It has the immaculate tightness and mind-invading structure of a classic Soilwork song. My hairs stood on end. “When The Universe Spoke” for me defines the dynamic personality of this album in the way that “Nerve” and “Overload” do on others and surely has to feature in the live set. There’s the familiar juxtaposition of harsh and clean sections, crisp drum work and a mellow section before a final spine-chilling finish to complete this subtly constructed soundscape. My hackles had risen, and I was ready for more adventure. It comes in the form of “Stålfågel” (Steel Bird), a direct anthem for everyone to sing along to. “The Wolves Are Back in Town” has a similarly catchy quality and has all the energy and the classic hallmarks of a Soilwork song without branching outside of the template, which constituted a momentary climbdown. “Witan” takes us back on track. Flamboyant guitar work and a sing-a-long chorus that appears out of nowhere make this a joy. Like “When The Universe Spoke” before it, “The Ageless Whisper” has a magical quality, thanks as always to its gripping and stomping development. So too the final two tracks “Needles and Kin“ and “You Aquiver” are stratospheric experiences. As ever, Soilwork reach out to their audience and make us willing participants in their melodic metal maelstrom.

So expectations are met but it’s clear too that Soilwork have added layers and elements to their songs. I like the old stuff but this is more sophisticated. The blending of styles work so much better on “Verkligheten

”. I was more conscious of the drum work, keyboard sections and the occasional introduction of classic metal elements, but ultimately it’s about the structures. Moments where the magic didn’t work for me are rare on this killer album. It’s irresistible. I have started to become obsessed with it. Soilwork have stepped up a gear here. The epic yet classic quality of the structures, the energy and the catchiness all make this a trademark Soilwork album, but “Verkligheten” is like listening to them afresh as if they hadn’t released ten albums previously.

(9/10 Andrew Doherty)